For decades, Salford has been run by cultural Philistines who have overseen the destruction of the community's art, culture and heritage in favour of everything being channelled through big institutions and developers.
The eleven year life of the Salford Star has witnessed the trashing of heritage sites, from the Salford Quays cranes to the Ordsall graffiti wall, and historic pubs like the Black Horse and Ye Olde Nelson.
Anyone who has tried to get anything cultural going in the community has either been financially starved out of the city, given up completely or are operating on virtually nothing in the shadows. As far as the community goes, it would be fair to say that Salford is almost a cultural desert.
Those who run the city have mainly seen indigenous culture as a threat, or not in keeping with some shiny new image that they have been intent on imposing. How many times have we heard senior councillors like John Merry and Derek Antrobus waffle on about how they want to rid the place of the 'dirty old town image'?
Indeed, not a peep has been heard about the imminent demolition of the Ordsall gasworks made world famous in Ewan MacColl's Dirty Old Town. MacColl's wife, Peggy Seeger, put forward an imaginative proposal for the structures to be converted into an environmental theme park - an iconic statement in the gateway to the city. But no. Salford Council delighted in telling everyone it was going to preserve a wall on the site that wasn't even in the original song lyrics.
Meanwhile, almost everything cultural has been chanelled into the officially sanctioned 'cultural quarter' of Chapel Street and Media City, with any grants being gobbled up by promoters and artists who have come in from outside the city; who 'speak the same language' as the establishment and can give developers a bit of 'hip'.
Any Salford artists who haven't fled the city and wish to exhibit are left with the walls of cafes or community centres - or, if they are really lucky, the back staircase of Salford Museum and Art Gallery.
A big community proposal for the publicly owned Buile Hill Mansion to be turned into a community run gallery and museum, learning space and meeting place has been constantly stonewalled by Salford Council.
It's fair to say that Salford City Council doesn't trust its own community to get anything together culturally. Which is why it's joined together with other top-down self-appointed purveyors of culture in the city, The Lowry (which had to be dragged kicking and screaming to go near the community); the University of Salford (Engels Beard climbing wall) and the Arts Council of England (big prestige schemes only!).
With these institutions the Council has formed the dull sounding Salford Cultural and Place Partnership (SCPP), which is currently tendering for outside consultants to work up a 'cultural strategy' for the city. And the consultants will be paid £70,000 for the work - roughly double what the Council currently doles out to grass roots arts groups in Salford...
...Although no-one knows the real figure because there's no actual proper transparent application process for groups or artists to apply for funding. It all appears to be based on the personal patronage of the City Mayor - itself a fucking disgrace.
"The ambition is to now place culture and the creative economy central to place-making and planning in Salford" the brief to consultants states with no irony "Culture is recognised by investors, developers and communities as a critical part of a city's identity, character and well-being. Civic leaders also understand that a city's unique cultural life is in fact its USP. For these reasons now is the time to examine Salford's unique cultural life.
"The cultural strategy will build on our strengths to: Establish Salford as a nationally and internationally acknowledged centre for culture: Embed culture in the making of places and the life of the whole city" it adds "...We recognise the tension between the need for strategic institutional work to create funding opportunities and the dual objective of making sure niche, independent organisations are not crushed by bureaucracy."
Trouble is that 'niche, independent organisations' embedded in the community have already been 'crushed'. Add to this the statement in the brief "that Cultural education also must move with the times and be responsive to the needs of employers and career progression", and it can be seen where this 'strategy' is going...
The brief is full of stultifying language that sounds like it was drawn up by a committee that has never 'danced beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free'...
"Collaborative working in the interests of a common good are at the heart of Salford's culture and has led to the on going transformation of the City's economic base" it yawns "The story of Salford Quays, the creation of MediaCityUK and continued development illustrates the shared ambitions of a mature partnership. This partnership approach is needed more than ever to address new global challenges and create local opportunities...
"The cultural strategy aims to ensure the infrastructure and priorities are in place to support the delivery of an innovative, inclusive and sustainable cultural offer" it adds, and to "...Preserve and develop our cultural heritage and make it relevant and applicable to today and tomorrow, to all of Salford's communities but also people across the world" etc etc...
It's corporate drivel of the highest calibre, when set against what is actually happening to heritage, culture and art in the city. In practice, almost anywhere that heritage, culture and art happens has been privatised, corporatized, handed to developers or stifled...with the community encouraged to be a passive part of some sideshow tickbox exercise.
There was no 'cultural strategy' that allowed Salford's biggest culture phenomenons to flourish - from Happy Mondays to New Order, Lowry to Central Station Design, Tony Wilson to the Salford Players...just a bit of uncontrolled freedom to experiment and imagine.
Does anyone in the city, apart from those with a stake in the trough, expect a cultural strategy designed by £70,000 outside consultants, being whipped by Salford City Council, The Lowry, the Arts Council and Salford University, to be of real benefit to the community?
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* The main image shows Salford Graffiti Wall before the Council covered it in anti-vandal paint